MAYA: Most Advanced Yet Acceptable

I was recently introduced to Raymond Loewy’s MAYA principle – Most Advanced Yet Acceptable. According to the Raymond Loewy Estate’s website “he believed that, the adult public’s taste is not necessarily ready to accept the logical solutions to their requirements if the solution implies too vast a departure from what they have been conditioned into accepting as the norm.” I couldn’t have said it any better myself. Thanks Ray.

I am stupefied that I have not been introduced to this concept earlier. While Raymond applied this principle to the vast variety of consumer goods he designed, I believe this extends beyond the tangibles. Perhaps this explains why Apple’s Newton tablet never saw the success that its successor, the iPad, has seen. When the Newton was introduced, people were unfamiliar with the world of a digital personal assistant. The Newton was certainly advanced but it was not something that had been considered acceptable yet. Perhaps this also explains why the Segway was never embraced as a preferred mode of personal, small distance, transportation. Fortunately for Segway, they are certainly acceptable for touring cities.

But what about the things we can’t see or hold with our hands? As design has evolved to extend its application beyond household goods, does this principle still hold true? I say of course it does!

From a human-centered design approach, which doesn’t usually involve introducing products into the marketplace, this principle definitely still rings true. In fact it seems so true, that its embarrassing to consider all of the times I have felt frustrated with a client for not embracing a sound solution. I have become so familiar with design and the way I work, that I have had trouble understanding, that after all the time I have taken to examine a problem, after showing the client why an issue exists and then them telling me that they not only understand the value of my work but they also agree with the solution, why don’t they adopt the solution with open arms? Perhaps it is because the solution is simply too advanced and therefore not acceptable.

So how do we make things acceptable? Well based off of what we know about habit and the power of context, what if we put things in the context of what people already accept? I think if you can identify the right way an organization goes about problem solving, then you can use that context to frame design.

Let’s consider a car-repair garage to create an example. A person brings in their vehicle because it isn’t functioning properly. The mechanic listens to the owner as they describe the problem. The mechanic then examines the vehicle. The problem is diagnosedThe mechanic makes a repair based off of the diagnosis. And if that didn’t fix the problem, they try something different (or you take your car somewhere else). Without any formal education, the mechanic is using the design process the words are just different. So if I were working with a complex, auto-repair organization, I would consider putting the design process (Research, Synthesis, Prototyping, & Iterating) into acceptable terminology (Listen/Examine, Diagnose, Repair, Try Something Different).

If designers approached clients with a higher sensitivity to the existing culture, there might be more success at developing solutions that adhere to the MAYA principle.

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